SBJ/October 5 - 11, 1998/No Topic Name

Group demands changes

With a fat new television contract, higher purses and strong tournament attendance, you might think that all is well with the PGA Tour as the 1998 golf season winds down. But there's unrest in the ranks as some players who've formed their own splinter association push the PGA Tour to make some major changes.

In the past few months, journeyman tour pro Larry Rinker has led a group of PGA Tour members who've formed their own Tour Players Association. Rinker helped create the TPA because of his dissatisfaction with the PGA Tour administration, which he says doesn't effectively represent the needs of the tour players and withholds financial data.

"We want to have a say in what is going on, and we want to hold the administration more accountable," Rinker said. "It's our tour, and we want to be treated like shareholders of a corporation, yet we're treated almost as employees. We are skeptical of the tour's finances. The assets of the tour have continued to grow, and we'd like to have more understanding of the finances. We don't even know how big the pie is."

Rinker said the TPA is a nonprofit corporation that now has 53 members, not all of whom have paid dues for legal counsel. He would not disclose the membership list.

"We want the players to make decisions, and we've created the vehicle to do that," he said.

The major issues being addressed by the TPA include getting full access to the PGA Tour's finances and revamping of the PGA Tour's retirement plan. But the most recent issue is the whether to pay players who fail to make the cut a stipend to cover expenses.

"The tour will make $400 million this year, so if we pay players who miss the cut a $1,500 stipend, that will cost about $3.5 million," Rinker said. "That's about 1 percent and isn't a big deal. For what the tour is making, we are playing for peanuts."

PGA officials declined to discuss Rinker's efforts but said they are trying to address the fledgling TPA's concerns and denied withholding any financial information. The PGA contends its books are independently audited.

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